The sound of inconsistent hollow rhythms muted by a single toned drone swells in loudness through elements of noise and diversified found sounds, taking the music from industrial processes to self-referencing tape cues – and all of it occurring in the first few bars. Chemiesfaserwerk, the latest release from X-Ray records’ Blue Tapes art project division, arrives like sudden and unforeseen blow through the first few minutes of the tape. It reflects the “mini-tradition of secular drones” that Blue Tapes have curated over the years through manipulating tape as a modern day interpretation of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop with the advent of modern technology in the processing realm. The source material might be tape, but what becomes immediately evident through Trajet A is that Blue Tapes have transmuted tape manipulation into, and beyond the future to some alien landscape that negates any known musical language in favour of the visceral encounter.
The tones and sonic landscapes that Chemiesfaserwerk delves in is unnatural, but not dominantly aggressive in the way of noise, often giving way to immoveable superficial ambient environments that reflect La Monte Young’s most transcendent capabilities. There are no rapidly improvised features to the music and phrases tend to exist rather than progress. The progression comes not from a musical tradition, but rather from the various sonic environments that are in a constant state of flux, like some television remote control jumping between distant intervallic channels. The work is made up of “crackles, bumps, feedback and other tape-sourced errata”, according to Blue Tapes but sounds very much like some piece of broken software. Digital feedbacks; creaking, stretching percussive tones; and incandescent noise are the results that spawned from these source input materials. At times they are confrontational, while during others, they feel more affectionate, representative of the different artists that are involved in the project, artists that include Katie Gately and The Fractal Skulls – each representing the striking contrasts between Blue Tapes’ spiritual pop and secular drones, according to the label.
At it’s most impressive we find Chemiefaserwerk in the shape of a drone that modulates alongside the more obstructive squeals and squeaks of abstract samples, usually towards the ends of either side. Side A’s final moments are especially immersive while the last “track” (if you could call it that since they form a continuous mix with one track intersecting, and becoming part of the next) of the release is the most progressive in its composed form. Even with these more accessible moments, Chemiesfaserwerk is hardly an easy listening exercise. It’s not the sonic backdrop to accompany the latest Thomas Pychon novel – It’s intentional music and requires your complete undivided attention. Whether it’s white noise falling apart between clanging percussion or a babbling brook drifting off into exasperating sine waves, the quick succession of the phrases don’t allow for an extended transcendent listening experience, with various different parts continually vying for your attention through the different chapters of the tape. Chemiefaserwerk is a collection of works that the listener is unlikely to forget, even though there is very little to manifest as anything quite memorable. What sticks with you after hearing Chemiefaserwerk is the listening experience itself. You’ll remember feeling confrontational, relaxed, perplexed, annoyed and especially always intrigued, while this Blue Tape is spinning between reels. It is quite the effective summary of those two elements of Blue Tapes that have found a common ground on this tape, and whether you like the twisted mechanical electro-acoustic-pop of Katie Gately or the mutant drones of the Radiophonic Workshop, there’ll be a little something in it for everybody.